Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Comprehending China's rise

China ~ myth of immensity?

From The Statesman
ND Batra

Is China like the Greek mythological figure Icarus flying too close to the sun on wings of feathers and wax? From Long March to Mao’s Thoughts to Cultural Revolution to no-holds-barred mercantile capitalism is quite a flight. China is a nation intoxicated with its future: “Rise up, people who do not want to be slaves.” “Motherland, 10, 000 years.”

Cleverly staged mass media propaganda and lobbying by people in high places including some of the top CEOs of major US corporations has helped the Chinese authorities in blurring facts with fiction, creating the perception of China’s relentless and inevitable rise to a global superpower. “You cannot afford not to be in China,” runs the refrain in many corporate boardrooms in the USA.

China fascinates corporate America with its myth of immensity but more so with its ruling party’s collective mind that controls the obedient masses: 1.3 billion worker-consumers who would one day buy every branded product made in the USA. You have heard the drumbeat, repeated ad nauseam. And China has come to believe that since Americans cannot do without its cheap goods, why worry about intellectual property thefts, currency manipulation to fuel exports, humongous trade surplus, or even the problem of nuclear proliferation created by North Korea and Iran?

Consider, for example, the 2008 Games. In 2001, the International Olympics Committee too took the bait, as The Wall Street Journal had naively put it, “to refashion the Olympics from a sports and merchandising extravaganza to an engine of political and social change.” That’s expecting too much from an organisation like IOC that has been paying little attention to its own widespread problems, bribery scandals and drugs, for example. If human rights were the deciding factor in determining the choice of the host city for the Games, Moscow under the Soviet Union and Berlin under the Nazis would not have been selected to host the Olympics. China won the right to stage the Games in spite of its abominable record of the suppression of human rights of the people of Tibet, the followers of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong, political dissidents and scholars rotting in its jails without recourse to a fair trial.

Doing business with China is more important than human rights, though Americans along with rest of the world go on paying lip service to the problem. But Falun Gong is still alive and kicking, as a protestor demonstrated loudly on the south lawn of the White House, a most restricted area, during President Hu’s meeting with President Bush last week (“President Bush, stop the persecution of Falun Gong, stop the killing,” shouted the protestor).

Trade and the Olympics had no civilising effect upon Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union; therefore, to expect a miracle to happen in China because of the Olympics in 2008 or increasing international trade is puerile and silly. Rising prosperity would not force China’s Communist Party to give up its monopoly over power and become democratic. Since Deng Xiaoping took the road to capitalism about three decades ago, China’s economy has been opening up and growing rapidly with its gross national product rising to more than two trillion dollars. The rate of annual economic growth has remained above nine per cent. Made-in-China goods ~ toys, shoes, electronics, and even golf clubs and handguns ~ are found in every shopping mall of the world. Much economic benefits are expected from the 2008 Games because it has necessitated an investment of billions in infrastructure and information technology to modernise and showcase Beijing for the events. Millions of tourists would pour into China. But would they remain silent observers?

The Deng Xiaoping market economy revolution unleashed China’s entrepreneurial and organisational energies, but not without the help from the outside world, especially the USA, which magnanimously opened its markets to China. Today China is a healthier, better-fed and better-educated nation than most other developing countries but it remains a closed society. China feels that it can compete with the best, but can it tolerate the noise and chaos of an open society like the multicultural and multiracial USA, where the people demand accountability from their political leaders?

Beijing with the help of Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Cisco has been trying to expand its control into the digital domain, but I wonder if it ever would have the same control over cyberspace as it has over Tiananmen Square. The Internet might bring about tremendous political upheavals in China.

Large centralised political systems break down due to internal pressures triggered by communications technology, unless they have built-in capabilities for adjustment, which China does not have at present. And so it is difficult to say what might happen in China in the age of the Internet, satellites, cell phones and hosts of other wireless, digital, and interconnected sensing devices that are becoming available. Can China control the uncontrollable, the digital generation swapping billions of text messages on cell phones, the generation that could organise itself into an upsurge? Look at the wonderful people of Nepal!

The authoritarian Communist regime may have no choice but to open its doors, skies and cyberspaces to a worldwide audience. China does not live on the Communist time but the Internet time, where changes occur fast; and events occur on a different time scale and generate different values.

1 comment:

  1. Indian article shows the typical Indian inferior complexity.

    Keep going!

    if China's immensity is myth, then India is hyper.
    1. China is the No. 1 IC market.
    2. China is the No. 2 auto market
    3. China is the No. 2 PC market.
    4. China is the No. 1 commedity market
    5. China is the No. 1 electronic appliance market.


    Need more, go to google yourself.

    Comparing with China's market, Indian market is tooooooo small.

    Don't turn off the comments section, coward and liar!